October 25, 2021
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Federal Court in Atlanta Ruled That Kaiser Violated Federal Law by Refusing Reasonable Accommodation to Employee
ATLANTA – Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia, Inc., a managed health care provider that is part of the Oakland, California-based Kaiser Permanente organization, agreed to settle a lawsuit after it was found liable for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today.
After the court ruled against Kaiser, Kaiser agreed to pay its former employee $130,000 and enter into a consent decree under which it will train its employees on the ADA, make changes to its employment forms, and allow the EEOC to monitor how it handles future requests for accommodation under the ADA.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the disabilities of one of Kaiser’s specialty appointment coordinators made it traumatic for her to access her workplace through revolving doors, so she requested the reasonable accommodation of using the available non-revolving doors. Kaiser refused to allow its employee to use the non-revolving doors to accommodate her disabilities and forced her to use the revolving doors instead, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division (EEOC v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:19-CV-5484-AT) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
On April 19, Magistrate Judge Walter E. Johnson entered an order recommending that Kaiser be found liable as a matter of law for violating the ADA. On Aug. 9, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg entered an order adopting Johnson’s recommendation, which left only the amount of damages to be awarded to be tried to a jury.
In a significant decision that highlights an employer’s accommodation obligations under the ADA, the court held that a reasonable accommodation under the ADA need not relate to the performance of an essential function of the job. The court held that employees with disabilities are also entitled to accommodations to access the workplace and to ensure that employees can enjoy the same benefits and privileges of employment that other employees enjoy. Subsequent to the court’s decision, and prior to a trial on damages, Kaiser and the EEOC reached an agreement to resolve the lawsuit.
“An employer’s obligation to accommodate an employee extends to access to the employee’s worksite and not just the specific performance of the employee’s duties,” said Marcus G. Keegan, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “The EEOC is pleased that after a lengthy court process, Kaiser has agreed to pay damages to its former employee for this violation of the law. Kaiser will also provide training and monitoring that we hope will ensure that what happened in this case does not happen again.”
Darrell Graham, district director of the Atlanta office, said, “A federal court found that Kaiser violated the ADA. The EEOC is pleased that rather than continue to fight this claim, Kaiser will compensate the victim and take the steps necessary to become a more inclusive workplace for its employees with disabilities.”
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest news by subscribing to EEOC email updates.